Read Under the Boss's Mistletoe Online
Authors: Jessica Hart
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Man-woman relationships, #Fiction - Romance, #American Light Romantic Fiction, #Contemporary, #General, #Love stories, #Romance: Modern, #Romance - Contemporary, #Christmas stories, #Chief executive officers, #Wedding supplies and services industry
This season Harlequin
Romance brings you
For an extra-special treat this Christmas don’t look under the Christmas tree or in your stocking—pick up one of your favorite Harlequin Romance novels, curl up and relax!
From presents to proposals, mistletoe to marriage, we promise to deliver seasonal warmth, wonder and of course the unbeatable rush of romance!
And look out for Christmas surprises
this month in Harlequin Romance!
“How on earth did you think of all this?” he asked.
“All I had to do in this case was act out a fantasy I’ve had for years,” Cassie said cheerfully. “I always wanted a Christmas wedding, and in my fantasy it was here at the hall, so I didn’t really have to think of anything. I knew exactly what I wanted!”
“It does look surprisingly Christmassy,” he said, looking around. “All you need is some mistletoe.”
“It’s too early, unfortunately, and don’t think I haven’t tried to get some!”
“Let’s pretend it’s hanging right here,” he said, pointing above their heads and drawing Cassie to him with his other arm. “Then I can kiss you underneath it.”
was born in West Africa, and has suffered from itchy feet ever since, traveling and working around the world in a wide variety of interesting but very lowly jobs. All of them have provided inspiration on which to draw when it comes to the settings and plots of her stories. Now she lives a rather more settled existence in York, U.K., where she has been able to pursue her interest in history, although she still yearns sometimes for wider horizons. If you’d like to know more about Jessica, visit her Web site at www.jessicahart.co.uk.
a word with you!’
Cassie almost fell down the steps in her hurry to catch Jake before he zoomed off like the coward he was. The stumble did nothing to improve her temper as she stormed over to where he had just got onto his motorbike.
He had been about to put on his helmet, but he paused at the sound of her voice. In his battered leathers, he looked as dark and mean as the machine he sat astride. There was a dangerous edge to Jake Trevelyan that Cassie normally found deeply unnerving, but today she was too angry to be intimidated.
‘You broke Rupert’s nose!’ she said furiously.
Jake observed her approach through narrowed eyes. The estate manager’s ungainly daughter had a wild mane of curls, a round, quirky face and a mouth that showed promise of an interesting woman to come. Right now, though, she was still only seventeen, and reminded him of an exuberant puppy about to fall over its paws.
Not such a friendly puppy today, he observed. The normally dreamy brown eyes were flashing with temper. It wasn’t too hard to guess what had her all riled up; she must have just been to see her precious Rupert.
‘Not quite such a pretty boy today, is he?’ he grinned.
Cassie’s fists clenched. ‘I’d like to break
nose,’ she said and Jake laughed mockingly.
‘Have a go,’ he offered.
‘And give you the excuse to beat me up as well? I don’t think so.’
‘I didn’t beat Rupert up,’ said Jake dismissively. ‘Is that what he told you?’
‘I’ve just seen him. He looks
Cassie heard the crack in her voice and pressed her lips together in a fierce, straight line before she could humiliate herself utterly by bursting into tears.
She had been so happy, she had had to keep pinching herself. For as long as she could remember she had dreamed of Rupert, and now he was hers—or he had been. It was only three days since the ball, and he was in a vicious temper, which he’d taken out on her. It was all spoilt now.
And it was all Jake Trevelyan’s fault.
‘He’s going to bring assault charges against you,’ she told Jake, hoping to shock him, but he only looked contemptuous.
‘So Sir Ian has just been telling me.’
Cassie had never understood why Sir Ian had so much time for a thug like Jake, especially now that he had beaten up his own nephew!
The Trevelyans were notorious in Portrevick for their shady dealings, and the only member of the family who had ever appeared to hold down a job at all was Jake’s mother, who had cleaned for Sir Ian until her untimely death a couple of years ago. Jake himself had long had a reputation as a troublemaker. He was four years older than Cassie, and she couldn’t remember a time when his dark, surly presence hadn’t made him the kind of boy you crossed the road to avoid.
It was a pity she hadn’t remembered that at the Allantide Ball.
Now Cassie glared at him, astonished by her own bravery. ‘But then, I suppose the thought of prison wouldn’t bother you,’ she said. ‘It’s something of a family tradition, isn’t it?’
Something unpleasant flared in Jake’s eyes, and she took an involuntary step backwards, wondering a little too late
whether she might have gone too far. There was a suppressed anger about him that should have warned her not to provoke him. She wouldn’t put it past him to take out all that simmering resentment on her the way he so clearly had on Rupert, but in the end he only looked at her with dislike.
‘What do you want, Miss Not-So-Goody Two Shoes?’
Cassie took a deep breath. ‘I want to know why you hit Rupert.’
‘Why does it matter?’
‘Rupert said it was over me.’ She bit her lip. ‘He wouldn’t tell me exactly what.’
Jake laughed shortly. ‘No, I bet he wouldn’t!’
‘Was it…was it because of what happened at the Allantide Ball?’
‘When you offered yourself to me on a plate?’ he said, and her face flamed.
‘I was just talking,’ she protested, although she knew she had been doing more than that.
‘You don’t wear a dress like that just to
Cassie’s cheeks were as scarlet as the dress she had bought as part of a desperate strategy to convince Rupert that she had grown up.
Her parents had been aghast when they had seen it, and Cassie herself had been half-horrified, half-thrilled by how it had made her look. The colour was lovely—a deep, rich red—but it was made of cheap Lycra that had clung embarrassingly to every curve. Cut daringly short, it had such a low neckline that Cassie had had to keep tugging at it to stop herself spilling out. She cringed to think how fat and tarty she must have looked next to all those cool, skinny blondes dressed in black.
On the other hand, it had worked.
Rupert had definitely noticed her when she’d arrived, and that had given her the confidence to put Plan B into action. ‘You need to make him jealous,’ her best friend Tina had said. ‘Make him realise that you’re not just his for the taking—even if you are.’
Emboldened by Rupert’s reaction, Cassie had smiled coolly and sashayed up to Jake instead. To this day, she didn’t know where she had found the nerve to do it; he had been on his own for once, and watching the proceedings with a cynical air.
The Allantide Ball was a local tradition revived by Sir Ian, who had been obsessed by Cornish folklore. Less a formal ball than a big party, it was held in the Hall every year on 31st October, when the rest of the country was celebrating Hallowe’en, and everyone in Portrevick went, the one occasion when social divisions were put aside.
In theory, if not in practice.
Jake’s expression had not been encouraging, but Cassie had flirted with him anyway. Or she had thought she was flirting. In retrospect, her heavy-handed attempts to bat her lashes and look sultry must have been laughable, but at the time she had been quite pleased with herself.
‘OK, maybe I was flirting,’ she conceded. ‘That was no reason to…to…’
‘To kiss you?’ said Jake. ‘But how else were you to make Rupert jealous? That
the whole point of the exercise, wasn’t it?’
Taking Cassie’s expression as an answer, he settled back into the saddle and regarded her with a mocking smile that made her want to slap him. ‘It was a good strategy,’ he congratulated her. ‘Rupert Branscombe Fox is the kind of jerk who’s only interested in what someone else has got. I’ll bet even as a small boy he only ever wanted to play with someone else’s toys. It was very astute of you to notice that.’
She had just wanted Rupert to notice her. Was that so bad? And he had. It had worked perfectly.
She just hadn’t counted on Jake taking her flirtation so seriously. He had taken her by the hand and pulled her outside. Catching a glimpse of Rupert watching her, Cassie had been
delighted at first. She’d been expecting a kiss, but not the kiss that she got.
It had begun with cool assurance—and, really, that would have been fine—but then something had changed. The coolness had become warmth, and then it had become heat, and then, worst of all, there had been a terrifying sweetness to it. Cassie had felt as if she were standing in a river with the sand rushing away beneath her feet, sucking her down into something wild and uncontrollable. She’d been terrified and exhilarated at the same time, and when Jake had let her go at last she had been shaking.
It wasn’t even as if she liked Jake. He was the exact opposite of Rupert, who was the embodiment of a dream. Secretly, Cassie thought of them as Beauty and the Beast. Not that Jake was ugly, exactly, but he had dark, beaky features, a bitter mouth and angry eyes, while Rupert was all golden charm, like a prince in a fairy tale.
‘Much good it’ll do you,’ Jake was saying, reading her expression without difficulty. ‘You’re wasting your time. Rupert’s never going to bother with a nice girl like you.’
‘Well, that’s where you’re wrong,’ said Cassie, stung. ‘Maybe I
want to make him notice me, but it worked, didn’t it?’
‘You’re not asking me to believe that you’re Rupert’s latest girlfriend?’
Cassie lifted her chin. ‘Believe what you want,’ she said. ‘It happens to be true.’
But Jake only laughed. ‘Having sex with Rupert doesn’t make you his girlfriend, as you’ll soon find out,’ he said. He reached for his helmet again. ‘You need to grow up, Cassie. You’ve wandered around with your head in the clouds ever since you were a little kid, and it looks like you’re still living in a fantasy world. It’s time you woke up to reality!’
‘You’re just jealous of Rupert!’ Cassie accused him, her voice shaking with fury.
‘Because of you?’ Jake raised his dark brows contemptuously. ‘I don’t think so!’
‘Because he’s handsome and charming and rich and Sir Ian’s nephew, while you’re just…just…’ Too angry and humiliated to be cautious, she was practically toe to toe with him by now. ‘Just an
And that was when Jake really did lose the temper he had been hanging onto by a thread all day. His hands shot out and yanked Cassie towards him so hard that she fell against him. Luckily his bike was still on its stand, or they would both have fallen over.
‘So you think I’m jealous of Rupert, do you?’ he snarled, shoving his hands into the mass of curls. ‘Well, maybe I am.’
He brought his mouth down on hers in a hard, punishing kiss that had her squirming in protest, her palms jammed against his leather jacket, until abruptly the pressure softened.
His lips didn’t leave hers, but he shifted slightly so that he could draw her more comfortably against him as he sat astride the bike. The fierce grip on her hair had loosened, and now her curls were twined around his fingers as the kiss grew seductively insistent.
Cassie’s heart was pounding with that same mixture of fear and excitement, and she could feel herself losing her footing again. A surge of unfamiliar feeling was rapidly uncoiling inside her, so fast in fact that it was scaring her; her fingers curled instinctively into his leather jacket to anchor herself.
And then—the bit that would make her cringe for years afterwards—somehow she actually found herself leaning into him to kiss him back.
That was the point at which Jake let her go so abruptly that she stumbled back against the handlebars.
‘How dare you?’ Cassie managed, drawing a shaking hand across her mouth as she tried to leap away from the bike, only to find that her cardigan was caught up in the handlebars. Desperately, she tried to disentangle herself. ‘I never want to see you again!’
‘Don’t worry, you won’t have to.’ Infuriatingly casual, Jake leant forward to pull the sleeve free; she practically fell back in her haste to put some distance between them. ‘I’m leaving today. You stick to your fantasy life, Cassie,’ he told her as she huddled into her cardigan, hugging her arms together. ‘I’m getting out of here.’
And with that, he calmly fastened his helmet, kicked the bike off its stand and into gear and roared off down the long drive—leaving Cassie staring after him, her heart tumbling with shock and humiliation and the memory of a deep, dark, dangerous excitement.